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We interrupt this programme….

 

When natural disaster strikes down under, the Australian Broadcasting Company passes the microphone to the Australian Red Cross

Australia is prone to an array of natural disasters, including floods, cyclones and fires.  Australia’s national radio and television broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), has been covering these emergencies for more than 80 years. 

Over the past decade, the ABC has taken on a more formal ‘emergency broadcasting’ role.  This involves stopping normal activities when a disaster strikes and switching to broadcasting emergency announcements, advice on safety and wellbeing and speaking to affected community members.  This service operates around the clock for as long as the threat exists and can be undertaken by any of the ABC’s 60 radio stations that reach more than 95 per cent of the population.

“If an emergency agency issues a warning we will broadcast it continuously and try to give information to help people respond,” says Ian Mannix, manager of ABC emergency broadcasting. “I believe this role is unique not only in Australia but around the world.”

“Carving out an emergency role for the ABC required a change of thinking about news,” says Mannix. “This is not necessarily conventional journalism. It means being part of an emergency communications structure and working side-by-side with emergency services agencies and organizations like the Red Cross.”

During emergencies, the Australian Red Cross (ARC) undertakes a variety of roles, including managing evacuation centres, providing psychosocial support, undertaking outreach and operating the national registration system.

“All our activities involve getting information in the hands of people affected by the disaster.  This is where the ABC plays a crucial role.  They act as a powerful communications channel reaching directly into affected communities,” said James Molan, Media Adviser at the ARC.

“For example during this year’s floods in Queensland we organised psychologist specialising in disaster recovery to go on the ABC as part of the emergency broadcast to give people advice on how to handle the stress of being isolated by flood waters and separated from their loved ones.”



 

 

 

 

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